Laying low, Hillary Clinton's campaign is roiled in controversy
The Republican National Committee is launching a new anti-Hillary campaign, dubbed "Hillary's Hiding" that is designed to draw attention to her lack of political activity despite her status as the Democratic front runner for the nomination:
The RNC’s effort will include billboards in early-primary/caucus states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, op-eds, and videos like the two-minute post it plans to unveil Tuesday featuring edited clips of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, and Clinton, branding her candidacy as “#Obama’s 3rd term.”
“What’s the only way not to seem like she’s campaigning?” asks RNC communications director Sean Spicer in the planned campaign kick-off memo. “Go into hiding.”
The memo notes that Clinton has not held a press conference in over 200 days, and has not been to either Iowa or New Hampshire since November’s midterms. It also details 28 times Clinton’s camp has declined to comment on the record for press stories since May.
Clinton allies largely maintain that there is no need for her to start campaigning yet given her strong position in preliminary polling, and that as a non-candidate there is no reason for her to hold press conferences.
“If she runs she will take nothing for granted, and she will fight for every vote. Anyone who thinks otherwise should think again,” said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill.
Hillary is running her campaign as if she's the incumbent, letting the other side slug it out among themselves while she maintains a low profile. It's probably the correct strategy given the dearth of Democrats who wish to challenge her. But it opens up questions as to whether she's running for Barack Obama's third term or her husband's?
While the campaign looks to sort that out, trouble is brewing in Hillaryland. Disagreements over strategy, and an unseemly public row among her donors is threatening to runn her campaign off the rails almost before it starts.
David Brock, former Bill Clinton critic turned Clinton worshiper, abruptly resigned from the board of directors of Hillary's biggest PAC, citing “an orchestrated political hit job” against his own pro-Clinton groups and threatening the huge donor base that is expected to raise more than a billion dollars for the candidate between now and the election.
Those groups — along with another pro-Clinton group, the super PAC Ready for Hillary — had their fundraising practices called into question last week by a New York Times report. It pointed out that veteran Democratic fundraiser Mary Pat Bonner got a 12.5 percent commission on funds she raised for Brock’s groups and a smaller percentage commission on cash she raised for Ready for Hillary.
In his letter to the co-chairs of Priorities’ board — former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina — Brock alleged that “current and former Priorities officials were behind this specious and malicious attack on the integrity of these critical organizations.”
The letter — and Brock’s resignation — offer a rare glimpse into a network of groups upon which Democrats are relying to keep the White House and stave off increasingly robust big-money efforts on the right. The public airing of dirty laundry comes as sources say Priorities is struggling to live up to the hopes of some Clinton allies, who had argued it should aim to raise as much as $500 million to eviscerate prospective Clinton rivals in the primary and general elections.
Brock, who spent his early career in Washington as a self-described “right-wing hit man” before experiencing a political awakening and emerging as the leader of an empire of hard-hitting liberal attack groups, contends in his letter that Priorities is trying to damage his groups’ fundraising efforts, “while presumably enhancing Priorities’ own. Frankly, this is the kind of dirty trick I’ve witnessed in the right-wing and would not tolerate then. Our Democratic Presidential nominee deserves better than people who would risk the next election — and our country’s future — for their own personal agendas.”
The disagreement over strategy is more subtle but potentially just as dangerous. Some Clintonites believe that she sould seek to "expand the map" and go after votes in some traditional Republican territory. Others believe she should develop a campaign similar to Barack Obama's 2012 effort that concentrated on getting out the base. As for the former, Hillary's closest staffers believe her historic position as the first woman nominee of a major party can attract white GOP women, thus removing a key strength of the Republican coalition. But others point out that's too risky and sticking with what clearly worked for President Obama would be safer.
Thirteen Iowa Democrats wearily took their seats here this weekend and discussed among themselves the source of their angst: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I’m utterly tired, tired of the Clintons and the whole establishment,” said Carol Brannon, 71, a retired nurse.
Anne Kinzel, 57, a former health-care lawyer, nodded sympathetically.
“The hacks think Hillary is entitled to be president,” Kinzel said. “I think she is one of those people who has lost the sense of why they are in politics.”
As Clinton prepares to launch her all-but-certain 2016 campaign, the former secretary of state remains a favorite of a vast majority of Democrats and the front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination. Still, there is unease among progressives about her largely uncontested ascent.
Seeking an alternative to the juggernaut, this restless Sunday gathering at the Ames public library and others like it are popping up around the country — all part of an effort to draft populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) into the race, in spite of her insistence that she will not be a candidate.
The grass-roots movement is being coordinated by Run Warren Run, a joint project of MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, two national groups that promote liberal causes and connect activists. In recent months, they have signed up about 250,000 supporters.
Over the course of the hour-long meeting, it was clear the frustrations of the attendees here were driven not only by Clinton but also by President Obama.
Eight years after Obama first drew enormous crowds in Iowa on his way to the White House, these Democrats feel disappointed by his presidency and what they described as his lackluster attempts to champion economic populism.
Note to Democrats: Hillary doesn't do populism. She's far more comfortable rubbing elbows with the Titans of Wall Street than the hoi polloi. In fact, part of the Democratic angst about Clinton is the fact that she just isn't a very good campaigner. She can raise more money than god, but when it comes to connecting to the voter on a personal level, there's no there, there.
Hillary has her loyal followers, for sure. But as with the Brock controversy, it appears that in the upper echelons of the campaign, there are those who are in it more for what Hillary can do for them, rather than what they can do for Hillary. In contrast, Elizabeth Warren's campaign would be full of true believers, seeing her as the next liberal messiah. Which campaign do you think would function more smoothly?
Warren is still not likely to run, and Hillary is still expected to turn the nomination fight into a coronation. But the conflicts and friction we see today have a real potential to impact Clinton's general election effort where her opponents will be far less forgiving than members of her own party.